The Revelations spin-off series is officially the crazy younger sibling of the Resident Evil franchise.
Resident Evil: Revelations 2Publisher: Capcom
Players: 1-2 players
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3
Release Date: 2015-03-04
Resident Evil: Revelations 2 is a sequel to a spin-off, which gives it an odd amount of freedom in terms of narrative and gameplay. No longer burdened by the expectations of a "main" Resident Evil game, it takes full advantage of that freedom to experiment with story, mechanics, and weirdly enough, release scheduling.
Revelations 2 is (was) an episodic series consisting of four episodes released on a weekly basis. That weekly schedule was interesting considering that most episodic games go with monthly releases. It's likely that the game was finished as a whole, but doled out to players piecemeal. The benefit to this kind of release is that if you got bored of the game halfway through you could simply not buy the second half, saving on 50% of the full asking price. I'm sure Capcom doesn't see that as a benefit, which is why the game is now available as a complete package for (a still strangely inexpensive) $40. This was a weird way to sell the game, but that's Revelations 2 for you, a game that firmly establishes the Revelations spin-offs as the crazy younger sibling of the Resident Evil franchise.
The story involves two groups of characters. Claire and Moira are working for a nonprofit environmental group when they're suddenly attacked, kidnapped, deposited on a creepy island, and forced to undergo a series of trials aimed at evoking fear. Six months later, Barry (Moira's father) comes to the island to search for the women, and teams up with Natalia, a mysterious little girl who has somehow survived the horrors of this place.
Each episode jumps between these two couples, and the game creates a lot of interesting cliffhangers through this timeshifting. Claire and Moira see a tower in the distance, but to Barry and Natalia it's just a wreck. Barry gets ominous news about the fate of the women, then we switch over to play as them. Thanks to tricks like this the simple act of walking around thickens the mystery of the island and motivates you to explore deeper. It's fun to watch these two stories converge as characters take different paths to the same location or retrace each other's steps in opposite directions. It's reminiscent of earlier Resident Evil games in which the dual protagonists were constantly separated, before they became co-op buddies forced to always walk the same path.
Sadly, breaking the story into episodes doesn't add any similar benefit, but it doesn't detract either. It's an experiment in piecemeal presentation forced upon a game that was already broken up into bite size pieces to begin with, so no harm, no foul. Especially considering, as I stated before, that this experiment benefits the player more than the publisher.
The island is filled with clever level design that serve the puzzles and combat alike. You'll run across scaffolding above a sewer as zombies crawl up from all sides, or you'll play with conveyor belts to move a generator across the map. The best moments come when Barry is faced with invisible monsters, and you have to rely on Natalia to tell you where to shoot. They're slow monsters, but it's easy to become paranoiac when you're shooting at nothing while Natalia is screaming ,"More to the left! Higher! It's coming closer!"
Claire and Barry are also distinguished from each other in clever ways. Barry, the big bulky professional soldier, plays more like a character in a stealth game, while the thin, small Claire plays like a character in a shooter. This counter intuitive gameplay actually works incredibly well. The game evokes tension as Claire by presenting her as an underdog fighting monsters, a little girl against the world. However, it knows that same approach wouldn't work when we’re playing as a bulky soldier, so it adds a stealth element to combat to evoke tension through our attempt not to be seen.
Revelations 2 is an incredible improvement upon its predecessor when it comes to the controls. The aiming feels precise this time, a simple change that transforms the game. Enemies can now have a variety of weak points, encouraging a variety of combat tactics. Some can be killed with a traditional headshot, but others require you to shoot off a layer of skin from each limb before a bulbous yellow mass of pus appears, a weak point that results in an instant kill when hit. It’s gloriously disgusting, and it’s an enemy that can only exist in a game that recognizes the difference between a shot in the arm and a shot in the leg.
Bosses are still mostly bullet sponges, but there are often environmental hazards that you can use to your advantage that add variety to the fights. There’s the guy with the drill who can get stuck on a wall or the big lug who will run into explosive barrels, etc. You won’t simply be dodging and shooting until your brain turns off. You’ll be moving around the environment with a purpose.
Resident Evil: Revelations was an experiment that largely failed at everything it tried to do. Revelations 2 is an experiment that largely succeeds. Hopefully this trend continues.